There are rumours that there is a Waschbär in the area.
A bear that washes?
Oh yes, a raccoon!
Their scientific name is Procyon lotor - lotor is Latin for 'washer'. And yes, there are raccoons in Berlin. I love raccoons, but perhaps not in or around the house as they are incredibly destructive. [Warning, strong language... understandably so, but consider yourselves warned!]
Apparently one set of neighbours had some unusual droppings on their patio and their cleaner confidently declared them to be not from a fox, but from a Waschbär.
Therefore, it must be true.
Kita has a toy raccoon. She loves it very much indeed and alternates between trying to 'kill' it, biting it to make it squeak... a lot, and gently carrying it around and snuggling it like a puppy. As I say, she adores it and it's rarely far from her.
Last week it was inadvertently left out in the garden overnight and it went missing! She was upset and kept wandering around aimlessly looking for it.
Rather puzzled, I looked for it too and soon spotted another toy and one of Rhiannon's old shoes down the side of the house where Kita can't go.
Something had taken them out through a small hole in the fence. It must be the foxes! And as we haven't seen a Waschbär we can't count that as a culprit. Foxes had been seen playing with other items in the garden so it's likely they took it.
At the weekend I brought Kita a new raccoon.
Life went on. And I made sure to bring all the dog's toys inside at night.
Yesterday, Kita was in the garden as usual. I glanced out of the window and noticed her fussing over something under the trampoline at the end of the garden.
From this distance I couldn't see what she had, and worried that she'd caught something I went outside and looked harder. It wasn't any of her toys as I could see them near the house. It wasn't mouse-small and for a heart-stopping moment I wondered if she'd caught Edgar Allen Crow.
For once she came when called and carried the thing in her mouth. Anxiously I peered hard, looking for signs of life but no, its four stumpy legs were still.
Huh? Four fat legs? What on earth had she got?
She triumphantly trotted towards me and depostited it a few feet away before grabbing it instantly and running off again. From the very brief glance I thought it looked like a toy warthog!
When she'd stopped her game playing I was able to look properly and sure enough, it was indeed a toy warthog! Where on earth had that come from?
It's not a new toy as one of its tusks is missing and the squeaker doesn't work, thank goodness.
A friend suggested the foxes are doing some kind of toy-swap and had left it in return for the raccoon.
In the absence of any other explanation I think this may well be true!
It is all very puzzling and I felt like an extra in a new Alice in Wonderland story.
Wait! There's more...
After our walk yesterday evening, Kita insisted on going down to the cul de sac behind our house. And when Kita insists, it's in the interest of the dog walker's arm to take her route. So we went down there.
Perhaps she wanted to thank the foxes who live there for her warthog?
She rolled in fox poo (or perhaps it was Waschbär poo?!) and then made a bee-line for a patch of land that leads to the lake. The path takes us beside the house where the Waschbär poo had been found.
I glanced over their fence to their newly built patio. And there, standing smack bang in the middle of it, was Kita's original raccoon toy!
Curiouser and curiouser.
Knowing the owners are lovely people (and out at work at that point) I had no compunction at popping over their fence and rescuing the raccoon.
Kita was overjoyed! It was so cute, she made lots of funny noises and happily wagged her tail at getting her 'baby' back.
I returned home to ponder. Had we been part of an elaborate practical joke? Should I replace the raccoon with a warthog? Or had the foxes dropped the toy on the patio? But it was carefully placed so there had to be some human intervention somewhere.
Coincidentally, that evening I went to dinner with one of the occupants and got a little closer to working out what had happened.
The patio-builders had sent him a photo of our raccoon on the patio. We think the foxes dropped the toy somewhere. The the builders had found it and, mindful of the cleaner's pronounciation regarding the poo, had decided to have a little fun so posed it on the patio for a photo.
We're all glad this mini-mystery has been fairly logically cleared up.
But I'm still none the wiser to how we got a warthog in our garden.
Was it you?